An impressive World Heritage site with a brutal past
Europe’s first Parliament
The word Thingvelier (spelt Þingvellir in Icelandic) was derived from the Icelandic words – “Ping” meaning parliament and "velir" meaning plans. It was originally the base of Europe’s first Parliament. Referred to as Alpingi, this institution was a place where ideas were discussed, disputes settled and where criminals were convicted.
Atlas Obscura refers to this site as a picturesque birthplace of Icelandic democracy that is drenched in the blood of its brutal past.
Disturbingly, women found guilty of adultery or infanticide were drowned in the Drekkingarhylur pool. During the 17th century nine men were burnt at the stake in Brennugja after being found guilty of witchcraft.
It was at the same site that the Norse pagan belief system was abandoned in lieu of Christianity and Iceland declared their independence from Denmark.
A UNESCO world heritage site
Declared as a UNESCO world heritage in 2004, this special tectonic and volcanic environment has stark geological processes that are playing out right in front of you.
Dramatic fissures in the ground show a continental drift between North America and Europe that occurs at a unbelievable rate of 1mm to 18mm each year. Iceland is the only inhibited island in the world where tectonic plate movements are visible, which makes Iceland a truly incredible country to explore.
Many of Iceland’s volcanic eruptions are caused by this with a recent example being the 2010 eruption of Eyjafallokull that temporarily grounded all flights across Europe.
Aside from it’s historical interest, Thingvellir holds a special place for nature lovers especially in the summertime where you can do some incredible hikes across the 9,270ha plain. Use your best judgment when encountering the many spectacular fissures as the rocks over the edge can be very unstable.
Over 10 000 years the valley’s appearance has been shaped by the sinking of the Earth’s crust. Canyons have formed, and in one part you can experience Silfra – a natural formed lake that is popular with divers. Filled with glacier water, the lake is considered one of the clearest bodies of water on earth with a 100meter clear visibility underwater.
The Oxara river passes through the National Park and here you can find a series of must see cascading waterfalls.
In the southern part of the park you will find a bridge that leads over a river which has been famed for thousands of coins being tossed in by visitors.
Game of Thrones fans - this is also the place where many of the scenes have been filmed.
Thingvelir National Park is a mere 30 minutes drive from Reykjavik and falls part of the famous Golden Circle. You can either rent a car and do a self drive – or book one of these amazing guided tours.
You might be saving a little on the self drive, but you will be missing out on the wealth of knowledge available from true locals.